“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
~ Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I recently spent an hour and a half debating the wisdom and accuracy of this particular Shakespearean gem. The fact that I could spend that long talking about a string of eighteen words proves a couple of things: 1) I am a bit of a literary nerd and bookworm, 2) so are some of my friends, and 3) names are a little more complicated than they appear on the surface.
My theory is that Juliet is wrong. Names are a label of identity and a frame of reference for interactions with others. Our names can create a visual picture to someone who has seen us. They can also associate us with a particular cultural, social, or ethnic identity. Names have meaning, they have a life of their own that is not always readily apparent on the surface.
And what does this have to do with a spirituality blog you ask? If you’re spent any time hanging about with pagans and eclectic seeks, then you already have an idea. If not, let me elaborate. Many of us have been given or have chosen for ourselves a spiritual name. In giving ourselves a spiritual/religious name, we provide ourselves with a label for our spiritual identity.
We can also get a little zealous about names – public spiritual names, names for use within our circles, private names for use only when interacting with the gods. We name ourselves with monikers from the trite to the sublime and all points in between. If we’re really lucky, we find or are given a name that doesn’t sound abjectly silly or like we’ve strung together a few mystical or ooky spooky words in some random order.
My own naming went something like this…
R: Your [real] name really doesn’t suit you. Spiritually speaking, that is. It means “follower of Christ”, doesn’t it?
Me: I suppose it does.
R: You really need a name that reflects who you are, something that is more you.
Me: Unfortunately it’s the only name I have, unless you have a better idea.
R: Hmm, I think you’re more of an Aisling. It’s Irish, means dream or vision. Also something to do with poetry, I think. Unless you prefer something like Rowanstar Nightsnow or Sunbeam Silverheart.
Me: Hey, I like the name Rowan, just not in a string of nonsensical combinations.
R: Ok, I dub you Aisling Rowan. I’m hungry. Let’s get some beer and pizza, Ais.
Yes, it was that kind of deep, mystical experience that required liquid carbs and cheese-covered dough afterwards. As flippant and silly as the conversation was, the name does suit me well enough that I still use it almost two decades later as my public ‘pagan’ and online identity. It has become a part of the way that identify myself, internally and externally.
What I have to wonder though is if this naming makes a difference to the deities that we follow. Does it matter at all to my goddess what I call myself? Does she care if I go by my real name, by Aisling, by my pen name, or by something else entirely? Am I somehow closer to her when I refer to myself as “Aisling” than when I call myself by my given name?
To be honest, I don’t think she cares what I call myself or am called by others. I know that in my dreams and journeys she calls me by another name, one that my waking mind cannot wrap itself around. She knows that is who I am, the name that I will always carry with me. If I run around calling myself Sunbeam Silverheart, the only effect it might have on her is to make her laugh… a lot. I, on the other hand, would lose all self-respect along with the last shreds of my dignity. Why? Because a rose by any other name is a misnomer. 🙂